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Kevin Dineen & the fly on the wall

June 26, 2017, 10:24 AM ET [498 Comments]
John Jaeckel
Chicago Blackhawks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

It’s now been 72 hours since the Hawks began a near revolutionary change in their roster makeup. After the draft and no further (for now) big NHL-level personnel moves, I’m reminded of a tip I got not long after the season—and season end interviews—ended.

This came right after (former) Assistant Coach Mike Kitchen was given his walking papers, when the sting of the first round sweep loss to Nashville was still being felt from the top of the Chicago organization down.

What I heard was essentially this:

That the other Assistant Coach, Kevin Dineen, had raised some eyebrows and piqued some interest in his season end interview, with regard to his take on what was lacking in the Hawks’ roster, if not the team’s overall approach.

I was also told this assessment may have saved Dineen’s job.

One of the luxuries the Hawks have—in employing a sure Hall of Famer in Joel Quenneville as their head coach, and Dineen, at minimum—is a deep, capable bench staff that know the X’s and O’s as well as anyone in the business.

I wrote a long, and much “discussed,” blog yesterday on how the Hawks’ moves on Friday were hard to fully assess or evaluate, beyond this—the Hawks got a lot faster as a team in the two big trades they made.

I am not going to re-litigate that this morning, except to say that the trades—not to mention the entirety of the Hawks’ draft on Friday and Saturday, seem to suggest a deliberate, broad commitment to team speed.

A couple of points bear mentioning here. First, commitment to speed is nothing new for Chicago. The great Chicago teams from 2009-2015 could adjust to more of a smashmouth, dump and chase style when they were forced, but they were—in essence— teams that relied on speed to get the puck up the ice very quickly, and get back defensively.

But over the last two years, there were roster changes (hold that thought) and just some organic aging that slowed the Hawks down as a team.

Now, as someone pointed out on the message board yesterday—you need skill and finish to go with speed or you have a team full of Paul Ysebaerts and Jeff Shantz’s. Point taken.

All that said, there are a couple of rumors still floating out there this morning that make more and more sense if you view them through the lens of the what appears to be the Hawks’ plan this summer: dramatically improve team speed.

The first might be an addition by subtraction.

Artem Anisimov does a lot of things well—and he is one of only a few Hawk forwards ready and willing to go to the front of the net and create screens. But he is also a guy the Hawks hoped would improve on faceoffs under the tutelage of Yanic Perreault (he hasn’t) and he is not what you’d call a burner coming up the ice.

So maybe it’s no surprise then that probably no Hawk has been linked to more trade rumors this summer than Anisimov.

That situation should play out (ne way or the other) before Saturday, when unrestricted free agency opens.

The other rumor gaining traction (and maybe a little too much traction, honestly) in the last 48 hours is one I reported on here a while back, that the Hawks might bring Patrick Sharp back in free agency.

What I heard, and I still believe, is that Sharp would be acquired, on a very team-friendly one year deal, only as a fallback—if the Hawks fail to acquire a younger, more capable asset in trade (like an Evander Kane, an Alex Galchenyuk or even a James Neal—all names I’ve heard the Hawks have been poking around on in the last 2 weeks).

Sharp is old, injured, and definitely was on the decline anyway. But he checks a couple of other boxes—assuming he’s healthy—he can play all three forward positions, left wing is probably his best position, and he has speed.

All that said, I remain a little dubious on the Sharp rumor, only because these rumors crop up every summer in the Hawk social media-sphere. In addition to the Prospect Savior(s) of the Year that bubble up every summer, there’s also the ex-Hawk who everybody can’t wait to get back.

In that vein, I’ve heard Andrew Shaw’s name flying around in the last 24 hours too.

Wait, what?

Yeah, I guess that’s certainly possible, too, just seems really unlikely for a lot of reasons. And more of an “interwebs invention.”

As for Sharp, I just keep hearing the Hawks are trying to not only get faster, but younger, and possibly better in 2017-18. And it seems to me that Sharp provides very little of a sure thing there.

Watch what happens this week, before unrestricted free agency opens Saturday. The Hawks are likely to make at least one trade by 7/2 (Marcus Kruger), and quite possibly Anisimov as well.

The return on any Anisimov deal could go a long way toward really shaping (and nailing down) the Hawks’ top 9 forwards—at which point it almost doesn’t matter if you sign Sharp for under $1 million and one season. Except the experience and versatility Sharp beings as a “backup” forward on your roster, where you’re not counting on him in any kind of regular, big minutes role anyway.

Or something like that.

I will be back with more as I hear it.
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